Toilet training a dog can be a really frustrating time for any new owner. However, every time I see someone asking about toilet training their dog, I see so much incorrect and out of date advice that I felt I needed to give some clarity on this.
Firstly, there are many ways to toilet train your dog, so this is not at all the only way. It is just the most effective and efficient way I have found over the years.
Before I go into explaining it, I first want to explain why using punishment for toilet training is a terrible idea. Trust me, previously when I was a balanced trainer, I taught toilet training the traditional way, scold and reward. This method is a long drawn out process with many "mistakes" in the home. Effectively the reason this is not an ideal method is that when you scold you dog for doing their business inside, the dog thinks you are doing so as the pee'd or pooped, effectively teaching them not to do the deed in your presence. That is why so many dogs will sneak away and do their business in quiet corners of the house. So, without even talking about putting the dog in pain or discomfort, or the effect that treatment has on your relationship and overall training, it is simply not a very effective way of teaching a dog not to pee or poo in the house.
The method I detail below is is by far the most effective, quick and stress reducing method. It has been tried and proven many times even with my own clients on young puppies, and on adult dogs who have not learnt. With my own youngest dog, this method had him house trained in 6 days. However, it does have a big down side, you need to be on the ball, pay attention and be very consistent. Failure to follow the steps will result in failure of the method.
There are 4 stages of this technique of this toilet training method which can be done while at home. Although intense at the beginning stages this is a big step forward to ensuring no more pee and poo on the floor.
a. Keep an eye on your dog at all times during toilet training. Watch closely and attentively for signs that he/she needs to go. When they do, attempt to distract them (not scare) and take them outside or to the pee tray.
b. Use appropriate and motivating rewards. This is usually a treat, coupled with a lot of praise and even games. Most dogs aren’t motivated enough just by praise or a game when peeing. Keep your treats nearby the pee tray and on you when going outside so you can reward immediately on them finishing the deed.
c. Take your dog to the pee tray or out every hour (initially) while at home. Repetition and consistency is the key. The more occasions you have that you can reward the appropriate behaviour, the quicker your dog will ‘get it’. If it has been 24 hours since your dog last got a reward for toileting in the correct place, it will take much longer to learn. You want to set them up for success as much as you possibly can.
d. Be patient and consistent and avoid punishment. Punishing your dog after an accident will not teach them anything, except that you are to be feared. If an accident happens, ignore your dog for a few minutes, clean up, move on and try to take your puppy out more frequently. If your puppy/ dog has an in-house mistake, it is not their fault, it is because you have not been consistent or attentive enough to capture the moment. Remember, the fact that we can teach such young dogs toilet training this quickly is amazing, you wouldn't expect a human baby to learn or be this capable with regards to toilet training.
This is a rough guide of what to expect with regards to regularity;
Initial reinforcement- First 3 Days: Every 60 min
Subsequent 2 Days: Every 90 min
Subsequent 2 Days: Every 120 min
Thereafter at ages:
2-5 Months: Every 120 min
6-7 Months: Every 3-4 hours
7> Months: Approx. 2 to 3 times a day
As well as keeping time you’ll have to play it by ear. Take them down anytime you notice the following;
If you hear excessive whining during the night.
As soon as you wake in the morning.
After the puppy eats or drinks. (You’ll have approx 10-20 minutes)
After a nap or a play time.
Last thing before you leave the house or go to sleep.
Do be aware that some dogs have unseen medical issues. If castrations and spaying have had a complication they may find toilet training a real issue and can regress. If they are suffering from a UTI, this will also make things a real challenge. Make sure you have your dog checked by a vet if you suspect these or a similar situation.
Some dogs have such a high level of fear/ anxiety that they will not be able to be reinforced or learn toilet training. If this is the case, behavioural rehabilitation is required before you can start toilet or basic training at all. I urge a huge amount of patience in these situations. No one wants to be made more scared when they are already terrified.
And finally, if the only accidents you experience is an over excited young dog, that is not toilet training, that is over excitement. You can look at that 1 of two ways, know that they tend to grow out of it and that no one else gets so excited to see you that they pee a little. Or, you can work on calming and relaxation behaviours to avoid the excited pees.
Toilet training should never be the most challenging thing you face with your dog. In most cases, when people are struggling with this, it is down to either lack of consistency, and/ or lack of knowledge. I am hoping that this article solves the lack of knowledge portion.